During a time in which airlines are hurting for business, particularly from loyal elite members, American Airlines has decided to make the upgrade process less transparent. It’s a foolish and unnecessary move.
American Airlines Obscures Upgrade Availability
Historically, American Airlines has used “C” class as its upgrade fare bucket for business class and “A” class as its upgrade fare ticket for first class. This has been easily verifiable via Expert Flyer, making it both transparent and easy to check whether your flight had confirmed upgrade space. With A or C space, you could use miles, systemwide upgrades, or Business Extra certificates to upgrade.
But Zach Griff notes that “C” space for business or “A” space for first class no longer necessarily directly correspond to the number of upgrade seats available. Instead, American Airlines will now only assign a subset of that space for confirmed upgrades.
Why this change? A spokesperson told Griff that AA is making “C” class a revenue fare bucket. In a sense, AA is reappropriating that fare bucket while still leaving it an upgrade fare bucket.
An Unnecessary Move By American Airlines
I get it. Times are tough. But during a time in which simplicity and streamlining seem to be prudent, AA is complicating its fare buckets even further by introducing a new revenue class, C (in addition to J, D, I).
Why not eliminate one of the dozens of economy class fare buckets and use that? Why not, if C and A are really needed, create new two-letter fare buckets for upgrade space, like CC or AA…that’s how United does it.
My point is that unless the goal was to obscure transparency, there is no reason for the change the way it occurred. This is surprising coming from American Airlines because it has been one of the most historically transparent. Indeed, while Delta and United sent cease and desist letters to Expert Flyer, American Airlines actively worked with Expert Flyer to provide travelers more transparency.
We will see how this move develops and whether we start to see a wide delta between “C” and “A” space and actual upgrade inventory.
How To Check For Upgrade Space On American Airlines
While Expert Flyer may no longer be accurate when it comes to tracking upgrade space, you can still check for upgrade space on aa.com. Log in before searching. When searching for your flight, look for the upgrade hyperlink at the bottom left of each search result entry.
Then look for a green check mark (or red X) next to your chosen flight.
Note, even though it says Basic Economy is not upgradeable, such “B” fare class fares are upgradable effective immediately via telephone.
Transparency is a foundation of trust when it comes to an airline loyalty program. AA, to this point, has been a leader, continuing to provide award charts and up to this point, clear access to upgrade inventory. I trust this latest change is not the start of a trend toward obscurity.
image: American Airlines